Such Pretty Flowers by KL Cerra To be published by Bantam on February 7, 2023 my rating: 3 stars Goodreads avg: 3.58 (as of 2023-01-02) Spoiler-free review Goodreads
disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and may differ from the final publication.
Releasing next week, Such Pretty Flowers was a solid thriller (with some horror elements) that moves along steadily as we follow Holly in the search for the truth about her brother’s death. Holly becomes obsessed with the enigmatic Maura, who her brother Dane was newly engaged to. This was a quick read — I devoured it in just two days. My only qualms were that I found myself bored at parts and that some of Holly’s actions seemed a little absurd to me. I know characters often make ridiculous decisions in thrillers but I was often internally screaming at Holly as she continued to fall in deeper and deeper. I definitely recommend this to thriller fans, especially those with an interest in botany.
The Atlas Paradox by Olivie Blake Published by Tor Books on October 25, 2022 my rating: 3 stars Goodreads avg: 3.74 (as of Jan 8, 2023) Spoiler-free review Goodreads
I’ve seen people say that it feels like this was meant to be a duology that Blake had to expand into a trilogy and I agree with that sentiment. Thinking back, I remember almost nothing that happened in this book. It was a lot of talking, repetitive conversations, and exposition, I guess? This suffers immensely from second book syndrome and the only thing that kept me going was the characters and their relationships. Thankfully I still found myself deeply invested on that front. I expect the next book to be more cohesive and plot-filled. And as always, I ship the polycule. ❤
How to Keep House While Drowning by KC Davis Published by Simon Element on April 26, 2022 (originally 2020) my rating: 5 stars Goodreads avg: 4.43 (as of 2022-12-21) Spoiler-free review Goodreads
In a way, this is a very ‘basic’ book. This isn’t full of ideas about how to keep your home sparkling clean or aesthetically pleasing. This is a book that people like me need. I struggle a lot with executive dysfunction and doing basic tasks around the house can feel physically painful at times. KC Davis was absolutely right to call this “a gentle approach.” This book understands you, assuages your guilt, and reframes how we look at chores. Davis emphasizes how cleanliness is not linked to worthiness, points out that our home should be there for us and not vice-versa, and shares the things she uses to make her own life easier. For example: she doesn’t fold her laundry! Everything that doesn’t wrinkle gets thrown into a basket and everything that does wrinkle gets hung up. Changing her mindset and letting go of the assumption that laundry needs to be folded made it a much more manageable task. I’ll definitely be recommending this book to friends in the future and am glad I bought a physical copy because I know I’ll be coming back to it a lot.
Babel by RF Kuang Published by Harper Voyager on August 23, 2022 my rating: 2 stars Goodreads avg: 4.45 (as of 2022-10-16) Spoiler-free review Goodreads
Clearly I am in the minority here, but this book just did not do it for me. The story follows Robin Swift, a boy who is orphaned by cholera and taken from China by a mysterious professor, who trains him in languages. Eventually Robin is enrolled in Oxford to learn translation — in this world translations power the magical bars of silver that ease life for the wealthy. I appreciated the messages here about how colonialism consists of violence and theft, and how colonizers devalue the cultures that they steal from even as they rely upon them. I just had a lot of issues with the way the story itself was told.
In order to focus on translation, Kuang creates an alternate version of our own world with silver-working at its center. I took issue in part with the fact that Kuang does very little with silver-working itself. It’s used to create inventions that… would already have been invented anyway, as we see in our own world. It’s bizarre to me that Kuang would create an entire alternate reality only to make it almost exactly like our own. The changes made to life itself are minute and don’t reflect, to me, what reality would be like if we did have this magical technology at our hands.
It also read to me as rather YA. The characters are technically adults but have the demeanor of teenagers and seem quite naive at times. A lot of the messages are in your face and there are often long monologues where characters lecture in order to tell us what we should be getting out of the book. There are some abrupt shifts in character that don’t make sense to me and there is a large plot point that I don’t even think should have occurred, but the entire end of the story relies upon its happening.
It felt to me like Kuang had a message she wanted to relay and wrote the whole book around that. I didn’t feel compelled by the story or the characters because they felt like nothing more than a mouthpiece. A lot of “and they studied, and they studied, and they studied some more” could have been cut from this to make the pacing a little more smooth. As is, it drags the reader through the first two-thirds and then sprints along to the ending. I’m honestly glad so many liked this, but I really fail to see the appeal of the story itself.
Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake Published by Berkley on February 22, 2022 my rating: 5 stars Goodreads avg: 4.19 (as of 2022-10-11) Spoiler-free review Goodreads
I read this in basically one sitting and just adored it. I’ve seen a lot of criticisms of Delilah’s character, and they’re all legitimate. I can see how she would be irritating to read. Thankfully, I just loved her. Womanizer lesbian with trauma returns to her hometown and falls in love with her sister’s best friend? Yes, please!!! I found Delilah and Claire both so fun to follow and their relationship made me just so happy. I don’t have much to say about this other than gushing, but I did also really like following Delilah as a photographer. I’m super excited that this is going to be a series and look forward to Astrid’s book coming out shortly!
The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker Publishedin 1986 my rating: 3 stars Goodreads avg: 4.06 (as of 2022-10-11) Spoiler-free review Goodreads
This was… bizarre. This is one of those books that makes me think I need to read some essays and interviews before I can understand it. I buddy read this with Destiny in preparation for the Hellraiser remake because (surprise to me!) this was the novella that Hellraiser was based on! Having never seen the film and going into this pretty cold (I knew what Pinhead looked like and that was it), I was definitely… surprised. My first read by Clive Barker was a middle grade horror novel, so this adult erotic horror novella was a bit of a turn.
Unfortunately, I just don’t feel like I got this. The writing was excellent – Barker certainly has that going for him – but the story itself was too bizarre for me to follow. I somehow only learned Barker was gay after reading this and I think having that lens would have been helpful for me to get more out of it.
Carrie by Stephen King Publishedin 1974 my rating: 4 stars Goodreads avg: 3.98 (as of 2022-09-20) Spoiler-free review Goodreads
No one was there—or if there was, He/It was cowering from her. God had turned His face away, and why not? This horror was as much His doing as hers.
I’ve read this at least once before, but it’s been years so I figured I’d pick it up before Kayla’s community reads The Weight of Blood (inspired by Carrie). I’m happy to say this is probably one of my favorite books by King. There’s no unnecessary length (King does tend to be overly wordy) and while there is still some offensive content, it’s not as front-and-center as it is in some of his other works. Overall, the story and characterization were wildly compelling. I hadn’t remembered the epistolary aspect, which really added to the book. There were a few moments that had me rolling my eyes at King, but as a whole I do recommend this and I’m glad I reread it. I will be excited to pick up a retelling written by a woman, though.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke Published by Bloomsbury Publishing on September 15, 2020 my rating: 4 stars Goodreads avg: 4.26 (as of 2022-09-15) Spoiler-free review Goodreads
There is a thing that I know but always forget: Winter is hard.
What a bizarre little book. This is difficult to review without giving anything away, but I’ll give it a shot. I went into this pretty cold, knowing only that it was somewhat related to mythology and fairly fantastic. I honestly think that was best, it took me a bit to settle into the narrative style but witnessing the story unravel while trying to figure out what was going on was very satisfying. Piranesi is an oddly satisfying character to follow, I appreciated his emphasis on logic and his understanding of the world around him. Although his naivety could have been frustrating, I found it more sad than anything else and I found him very sympathetic. Clarke did an excellent job with this and I’m glad it was the Women’s Prize winner of 2021.
Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey Published by Tor Books on July 19, 2022 my rating: 4.5 stars Goodreads avg: 3.53 (as of 2022-09-14) Spoiler-free review Goodreads
This book is dedicated to anyone who has ever loved a monster.
I can’t seem to stop reading divisive books! This was my fourth Gailey read and I have to say that I am so impressed by their range. From historical fiction to thriller to horror, it seems like they can do it all. Just Like Home is about a woman named Vera who returns to her childhood home at the behest of her estranged dying mother. Vera’s father was a serial killer and her memories in this house are slowly revealed to us over the course of the book. There is also a horror element that readers seem to either love or hate — I loved it. There were just a handful of things I wish Gailey had done differently, but I found this so atmospheric. I had to tear myself away from the book at night because even though I was getting so spooked, I didn’t want to put it down. I found both the characters and the story itself incredibly compelling and really can’t wait to see what Gailey comes out with next.
The Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani transl. by Sam Taylor Published by Penguin Books on January 9, 2018 (originally 2016) my rating: 4 stars Goodreads avg: 3.39 (as of 2022-09-08) Spoiler-free review Goodreads
Already the rumor is spreading. Something terrible has happened to the children.
I picked this up after listening to a re-run of an interview with the author on the podcast Literary Friction. I was a little anxious seeing the average rating (apparently the last month or so has been me accidentally reading plenty of lowly-rated books), but decided to give it a go anyway. I’m glad I did. This is a book following Louise, a French nanny who seems perfect in every way. But the book begins with the death of the two children Louise has been nannying. This is a retrospective, more literary than thriller, giving us the greater context for this tragedy.
I could have easily read this in one sitting. I found the story and its characters utterly compelling, even if none of them were particularly likeable. Louise is outwardly perfect in every way, going above and beyond, but privately she is drowning in the debts of her late husband and is completely estranged from her daughter. I liked how we were exposed to voices from Louise’s past as we follow her in the very recent past throughout her career with these two children. The tone of this book was immaculate, with creeping dread building steadily as the family and the nanny become increasingly more codependent in their relationships.
This will be a particularly horrific read for parents and I caution you to make sure you’re prepared if you have or want kids. But Slimani is an excellent writer who is able to pack so much into such a slim novel and I will absolutely be recommending this.